There are good tax preparers, bad tax preparers, and then there’s Lawrence Seigel. Mr. Siegel, who resigned from the California bar in 1994 and lost his CPA license in 1997 after being convicted of tax evasion (among other crimes) also faces a 20-count criminal complaint “…charging him with Medi-Cal fraud, grand theft, forgery, identity theft, financial dependent adult abuse and tax evasion.” The US Department of Justice filed a civil action against him, and he was a no-show for the court date last Monday.
As for what Mr. Siegel is alleged to have done, he supposedly has impersonated California attorneys, used multiple aliases, and proposed tax fraud schemes. From the DOJ press release:
Siegel falsely advised his customers, typically high earners who own profitable businesses, that they can establish companies in another state, usually Nevada, then treat their California home as an out-of-state corporate office. Siegel claimed that doing so would transform a vast array of non-deductible personal expenses into tax deductible business expenses, according to the complaint. The complaint details how Siegel boasted about this tax fraud scheme in e-mails, including one where Siegel falsely claimed that his customers are entitled to free housing as tax-free compensation from their out-of-state companies and that “[t]he housing can [b]e luxurious and cost thousands a month” because “[t]here is an assumption that corporations don’t waste money.”
Well, housing can be expensive in California. That said, personal expenses aren’t deductible.
For example, the complaint states that Siegel deducted on one couple’s tax returns purchases at Tiffany & Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Louis Vuitton and Princess Cruise Lines. Siegel allegedly attempted to conceal these fraudulent deductions from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by lumping them together and reporting them as large expenses for “supplies” or “medical records and supplies.”
It’s great if you can get away with it. Mr. Siegel appears to be lucky to have escaped a federal indictment, given that he is also accused of providing false documents to the IRS and lying to IRS officials. In any case, Mr. Siegel, if found, faces trial in California on that criminal complaint.
As a reminder, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. No, you can’t deduct personal expenses if you run them through a corporation. And while I wish I could take a deduction for the cruise to New Zealand and Australia that I took last year, I also know the law–and you just can’t do that.